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« Down on the farm with Yo 'n Dave - Josh 181 | Main | The boy who cried warming »
Thursday
Aug302012

Trouble at the mill

The UK's energy policy still looks as though it is being run by dyed-in-the-wool greens but elsewhere there is growing evidence that normal economic behaviour is starting to reassert itself. For example, solar panel manufacturers in China are on the verge of extinction (H/T/ Iain):

Two years ago, LDK Solar, one of China's largest solar panel makers, built a new, state-of-the-art factory in the central city of Hefei.

Last month, however, 4,500 of the staff were put on gardening leave. They receive 700 yuan a month to stay at home. The factory has shut down 24 of its 32 production lines.

..."There do not seem to be any orders. People are still turning up for work, but mostly just sleeping. The management has not said much, just that the United States has a new policy that is stopping our exports,"

Meanwhile, even in windy New Zealand, wind turbines can't be made to pay (H/T Mike):

NZ Windfarms, which operates Te Rere Hau windfarm in the Tararua Ranges, posted a wider full-year loss after taking an impairment charge against its assets and reporting power generation was 25 per cent below budget.

The net loss was $24.6 million in the 12 months ended June 30, from a loss of $3.38 million a year earlier. The loss in the latest year included an impairment of assets of $30.7 million. Sales rose to $9.76 million from about $4.1 million.

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Reader Comments (52)

Maybe wannut crossbeams gone out of skew on't treadle.
Perhaps everyone has enough windmills to be going on with.

Aug 30, 2012 at 9:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

One's heart goes out to those who have been taken in by the renewables scam ;<)

The problem we have with the solar industry is that, although the solar Feed-in Tariff is falling, the costs of solar panels are falling faster as they are dumped on the market. Hence the resurgence in applications for solar farms.

Aug 30, 2012 at 9:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Solar panel 145W for £250 at Maplin...what would I run with it? (A: Not much).

My dream is a 6kW solar power station by my house in Italy, making it shine 24h like a Christmas tree (more or less...). An affordable, compact 6kW solar power station, that is...

NB looks like a CO2 increase corresponds to an increase in efficiency for photosynthesis...we're saved!

Aug 30, 2012 at 10:30 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Tim Yeo

The two faced windmill promoting and profiteering MP has no problems with runways and aircraft.

“We could cover the whole of Surrey with runways and not increase emissions by a single kilogram”.

- Tim Yeo MP, chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, 28 August 2012.

The Department of Transport floated the idea of raising the motorway speed limit to 80MPH from 70MPH.

How seriously do the authorities take the CO2 global warming scare?

Aug 30, 2012 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterBryan

Of course, when the entire renewables industry collapses under the weight of its own subsidies, you can guarantee that the Green/Left will try to pin the blame on well-organised, oil-industry funded denialist disinformation machines.

Accepting responsibility for bad ideas and bad policy just isn't in their DNA.

Aug 30, 2012 at 11:08 AM | Registered Commenterrickbradford

"..and reporting power generation was 25 per cent below budget..."

Has anyone got any figures which would show whether this was:

1 - really a poor year for wind, hence just a glitch in their predictions
2 - actually a normal year, hence an oversold undertaking which deserves to fail?

I suspect the latter. And if so, I hope that the lesson will be widely promulgated...

Aug 30, 2012 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

"...NB looks like a CO2 increase corresponds to an increase in efficiency for photosynthesis...we're saved!.."

According to that paper, current CO2 concentrations have resulted in a 30% increase in plant efficiency since pre-industrial times.

So what the greens are arguing for is a 30% CUT in our agricultural efficiency. Makes sense. They have been really pissed off ever since Julian Simon comprehensively demolished their 'Population Bomb' theory. Now they actually have a chance to cause world-wide famine. How happy they would be....

Aug 30, 2012 at 11:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

“We could cover the whole of Surrey with runways and not increase emissions by a single kilogram”

Really? That would require all the runways to remain as grass and all the additional air traffic to be powered by pigeons...

Is Yeo capable of any thought process beyond the state of his bank account?

Aug 30, 2012 at 11:39 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Read the linked article Dodgy, as it answers your questions. Your assumptions are totally wrong. The amount of electricity generated increased, and the sales increased too. (Lack of wind is not a problem in the Tararuas, and never will be.)

The issue in this case is not can they generate electricity, but can they do so economically taking into account the cost of building the farm. The NZ wind operations don't get subsidies (or rather receive no more than other forms) and so this operation is marginal. Their only hope of eventually seeing a profit is to write down the capital costs -- so that is what they have done.

Aug 30, 2012 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterMooloo

Mooloo

Reading the article, "power generation was 25 per cent below budget" and "NZ Windfarms had 'a very poor wind year'." Your reading of the article is wrong. Total generation was up because of more wind turbines were operating.

Like a lot of developers, they wanted to sell on the wind farm once constructed and before it was realised how poor its performance would be compared to the initial claims. It happens in the UK, often a developer will sell on the planning permission at a profit and leave the buyer with the risk of building the wind farm and operating it.

Aug 30, 2012 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

More financial problems with US renewables' company exergy.
http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/exergy-race-sponsorship-funds-delayed
US power companies kicking back against excessive "green" prices.
http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-08-29/idaho-energy-tussle-makes-international-ripples
"An Idaho alternative energy fight is sending out international shockwaves, with a Greek company saying utilities' demands to skirt their obligations to buy power from wind farms are a threat to its business."

Aug 30, 2012 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Gallon

Like a lot of developers, they wanted to sell on the wind farm once constructed and before it was realised how poor its performance would be compared to the initial claims. It happens in the UK, often a developer will sell on the planning permission at a profit and leave the buyer with the risk of building the wind farm and operating it.

Aug 30, 2012 at 11:56 AM | Phillip Bratby>>>>

An interesting article for your fight against the 'Atlantic Array', or any other wasteful windfarm come to that.

FACTS ABOUT THE SAVINGS OF FOSSIL FUEL
BY WINDTURBINES IN THE NETHERLANDS1.

C. (Kees) le Pair

http://www.clepair.net/statlineanalyse201208.html

Aug 30, 2012 at 1:13 PM | Registered CommenterRKS

Dodgy and Mooloo
This site might help solve the conundrum, it reckons about 40% of capacity is output and capacity (100% of installed base) is 614 MW.

http://windenergy.org.nz/nz-wind-farms/generation-statistics

Sandy

Aug 30, 2012 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

RKS: Thanks, for this. I already use Le Pair at al's previous work in my evidence.

Aug 30, 2012 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

“obligations to buy power from wind farms “

That’s the underlying problem, IMO. If windpower isn’t viable in a free market, it isn’t viable. If it’s so wonderful (the energy input is free, after all) it shouldn’t need legal arm-twisting, ROC’s, subsidised tariffs, etc.

Same applies to Solar PV, which no-one would have without the subsidies, something that even Monbiot twigged some time ago.

Aug 30, 2012 at 2:26 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

This is also a very interesting site vis a vis windmill output, (non-) efficiency, consumption of energy etc., if you haven't already seen it:

http://www.aweo.org/problemwithwind.html

Aug 30, 2012 at 3:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

@Bryan - the 80mph is an EU directive due in 2014 I think.

And the Renewable gravey train has no problems in this country we'll just pay bigger subsides through borrowing ever more money. The UK.GOV credit card has no limit.

Aug 30, 2012 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

@Dodgy Geezer - Sorry to say but the roll back to the stone age is in full swing, the bankers did what the greens wet dreams where.

http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2012-08-29/%E2%80%9Cpauperization-europe%E2%80%9D

Aug 30, 2012 at 3:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

"-- the 80mph is an EU directive due in 2014 I think." --Shevva

Other soon-to-be-implemented directives include:

"From this day on, the official language of [England] will be Swedish... In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside...All children under 16 years old are now 16 years old."

Aug 30, 2012 at 5:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Reality is a real bummer when it hits.

Aug 30, 2012 at 5:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

They really are working hard to sell the wind mills!

"UK wind power predictable enough to keep lights on, says think tank IPPR"

"Wind power in Britain is predictable enough that the grid can rely on it to help keep the lights on, despite spells of cold, calm weather, while it cuts carbon emissions significantly, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said. "

"The reliability and security of wind power does not depend on the variability of wind but instead on how well changes in wind power output can be predicted and managed," thinktank IPPR said in a report.

"International evidence shows [wind is] wholly viable, and yet we're still not taking full advantage of it in terms of deployment," lobby group RenewableUK chief executive, Maria McCaffery, said in response to the report.

"British families are still being hit hard by rising wholesale fossil fuel prices."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/9508765/UK-wind-power-predictable-enough-to-keep-lights-on-says-think-tank-IPPR.html

Aug 30, 2012 at 5:06 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

"International evidence shows wind is wholly viable"

Let's try that again without subsidies...

Aug 30, 2012 at 5:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Green Sand

Guido is onto this already, I see..

Link

Aug 30, 2012 at 5:26 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

"80mph is an EU directive"

Blimey - does that mean we have to do it all the time?

Aug 30, 2012 at 5:31 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Re that IPPR report, it's essential to read this post on Guido Fawkes' blog. Two of the report's three authors are senior employees of GL Garrard Hassan. And what is GL Garrard Hassan? Well surprise, surprise, here's a quotation from its website:

GL Garrad Hassan is the world's largest independent renewable energy consultancy. The recognised authority on wind for many years, it is now at the forefront of the offshore wind, wave, tidal and solar sectors too.

As Guido says:

So we have the IPPR letting a wind energy company write a report on wind power, only for them to inexplicably find that wind is the way forward. Fancy that…

Aug 30, 2012 at 5:34 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

"..Read the linked article Dodgy, as it answers your questions. Your assumptions are totally wrong. The amount of electricity generated increased, and the sales increased too. (Lack of wind is not a problem in the Tararuas, and never will be.).."

I did read the article. I have made no assumptions, and can't understand what 'assumptions' you think I have made. The article didn't answer my questions, which is why I asked them. I simply wanted to know if the 'poor wind year' claimed in the article was actually true or not. In fact none of the suggested sites give that information.

What's needed is something like a table of wind speeds at the wind farm location over the last, say, 20 years. That would show if last year was an outlier, well below average, or whether it was perfectly normal. If it were normal, that would imply that the farm was built using incorrect predictions....

Aug 30, 2012 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Re windmill (non) efficiency, consumption of energy etc, this is an interesting site if you haven't already seen it:

http://www.aweo.org/problemwithwind.html

Aug 30, 2012 at 5:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

Aug 30, 2012 at 2:07 PM | Phillip Bratby>>>>>

Can I bring your attention to the section in this article which deals with the amount of electricity consumed from the grid by wind turbines:-

Re windmill (non) efficiency, consumption of energy etc, this is an interesting site if you haven't already seen it:

http://www.aweo.org/windconsumption.html

http://www.aweo.org/problemwithwind.html

Aug 30, 2012 at 5:38 PM | Barbara

Many thaks to Barbara for this useful link.

Aug 30, 2012 at 6:05 PM | Registered CommenterRKS

Thanks jamesp

Aug 30, 2012 at 6:09 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

For the NZ Windfarms (the shares of which are trading at all times lows of NZ $0.14/share), they appear to have operated at about 27% of installed capacity for the year (they have 48.5 MW installed capacity; and produced slightly under 114,500 MWh over the year - someone check my math, though). The scary thing, to me at least, is the jump in the price paid for electricity (leaving aside the additional credits they receive for being a renewable energy supplier). This is from their preliminary annual report (see: https://www.nzx.com/files/attachments/162289.pdf ):

"Despite the poor wind conditions during the year, NZ Windfarms earned $8,252,000 from electricity sales. To achieve this outcome, the turbines generated 114,498 MWh at an average price of $72.07/MWh. The comparatives for 2011 were $3,220,000 of revenues from 83,723 MWh at an average price of $38.46/MWh."

The CEO has the temerity then to complain that the prices paid were only 6% above budget...to me, it looks like the wholesale cost of electricity essentially doubled over the year.

Oh, and like most of these entities, they have breached the promised/permitted noise levels:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/7233811/Wind-farm-too-noisy-court

Aug 30, 2012 at 6:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan

Green Sand: and Dellers is on the case as well:

'Wind farms cure cancer, save kittens, create world peace' says new wind industry report

PS: he found that the third author of the IPPR report is a "green tech cheerleader".

Aug 30, 2012 at 6:44 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

More stimulus money should create thriving green businesses. (How can mere worker bees possibly be relied upon to decide how to spend their output sensibly?)

Aug 30, 2012 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Robin:

Check out Prof Nick Jenkins who peer (pal) reviewed the IPPR paper at http://www.engin.cf.ac.uk/whoswho/profile.asp?RecordNo=627

From 1992 to 2008, Nick Jenkins was at the University of Manchester (UMIST). In March 2008 he moved to Cardiff University where he is now Professor of Renewable Energy. His previous career included 14 years industrial experience, of which 5 years were in developing countries. His final position in industry was as Projects Director for Wind Energy Group, a manufacturer of large wind turbines. While at University he has developed teaching and research activities in both electrical power engineering and renewable energy.

and
DTI/DEFRA Sustainable Energy Policy Advisory Board (2003-2006)
Chair of the North West Energy Council. (2006-2008)
Co-Director UK Energy Research Centre Theme “Energy Infrastructure and Supply” (2004-2008)
Director of the Joule Centre for Energy Research in the North West. (2005-2008)
EU SmartGrids Advisory Council (2006-2008)
Special Advisor House of Commons DIUS Select Committee enquiry “Renewable Electricity Generation Technologies (2007-2008)
Co-Director UK Energy Research Centre
Theme “Energy Supply” (2009-)
RAEng Engineering Policy Committee (2008-)
Distinguished Member of CIGRE (2010)
Member OFGEM Low Carbon Networks Fund Panel (2010-)
Fellow Learned Society of Wales (2011)
Co-author of:
Wind Energy Handbook, Wiley (2011)
Distributed Generation, IET (2010)
Wind Energy Generation Modelling and Control, Wiley (2009)

A very independent pal reviewer.

Aug 30, 2012 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

The US leadership squandered billions in loan guarantees and operating subsidies on solar. Not surprisingly, much of the money went to insiders and pals of the leadership.
Oil and gas goes through boom-bust cycles fairly regularly. the difference is that oil and gas come back without need of direct tax payer support, and never go away to near extinction, which is what we will see for both solar and wind over the next dcade or so.

Aug 30, 2012 at 8:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterlurker, passing through laughing

I still think the title of this piece should be "Trouble at Mill".

Aug 30, 2012 at 8:23 PM | Unregistered Commentermiket

When all of these wind crucifixes/crucifixi start rusting and falling apart who will come up with the dosh to keep them running?

/rhetorical

Aug 30, 2012 at 8:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

"Maybe wannut crossbeams gone out of skew on't treadle.
Perhaps everyone has enough windmills to be going on with."

Spain has had problems with its windmills. They said they were going to have an inquiry.

But no-one expects ...

Oh, you've guessed :)

Aug 30, 2012 at 8:51 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

"Maybe wannut crossbeams gone out of skew on't treadle.
Perhaps everyone has enough windmills to be going on with."

Spain has had problems with its windmills. They said they were going to have an inquiry.

But no-one expects ...

Oh, you've guessed :)

Aug 30, 2012 at 8:52 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

No-one expects a double post either.

Apologies for that.

Aug 30, 2012 at 8:58 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

"Trouble at Mill"

I'm holding out for "Trouble at t'Windmill"...

Aug 30, 2012 at 9:11 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Meanwhile, over at the Guardian life continues as normal. There is a big article in today's issue about the candidates for leadership of the Green Party. Nowhere in the article is there the slightest hint that natural processes might be responsible for a significant part climate change or that the changes might not all be catastrophic. The policies advocated by the Greens on non-climate related issues are rather depressing too.

Yesterday the Guardian had an article claiming that wind power is a reliable energy source. Presumably the technology is so advanced that the turbines are more reliable than the wind!

Wind power study says opponents' claims are unfounded
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/aug/29/wind-power-study-claims-unfounded?INTCMP=SRCH

Report from thinktank IPPR says wind power is an efficient and reliable energy source, contrary to claims made against it. A new study into the efficiency and reliability of wind farms has concluded that a campaign against them by Conservative backbenchers and others is not supported by the evidence.

Aug 30, 2012 at 9:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

"Trouble at the mill"

or

"Trouble at Mill".

Nah:-

"The elephant in the wind turbine"

http://www.stle.org/assets/news/document/Cover_Story_06-10.pdf

Aug 30, 2012 at 9:47 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

@ Philip Bratby - I have also been checking out Nick Jenkins, and read through the following HOC minutes to see what his views are: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmenergy/1065/11052403.htm

I was staggered by this from Professor Strbac: "We can certainly decarbonise. From the technical feasibility perspective, there are no obstacles to delivering zero carbon. The question is how expensive these solutions might be. We certainly can power the UK with wind only. There is no problem there. <B>We can run with wind only. If you built 600 GW of wind power, it is going to work.</B> That solution would be incredibly expensive, but it can work."

What happens when wind is delivering less than 0.1%??? It doesn't matter if you build 60,000GW, it still wouldn't cover peak demand.

You said earlier "Hence the resurgence in applications for solar farms" - There is an article in the Eastern Daily Press regarding one proposed in Suffolk. I can't find a link, so have scanned and uploaded it here: http://i50.tinypic.com/kbsx9w.jpg Strangely it's not on the Lark Energy site either...

The local parachute club are based there, which could provide an interesting risk to the panels!!!

Aug 30, 2012 at 10:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave ward

@Barbara Thanks for the aweo link - well worth reading the whole piece.

The key takeaway for me is the fact that Denmark has not closed a single non-wind power station in spite of their hyper-active windmill programme.

Aug 30, 2012 at 11:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Trying to power a modern society with windmills is just as mad as putting a sail on top of your car.

The minor benefit when it works is overwhelmed by other costs and practical problems.

Aug 30, 2012 at 11:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

I have made no assumptions

That would show if last year was an outlier, well below average,

Well there's your first assumption -- that low wind is the problem. In the Tararuas it's as likely to be high wind.

Your other pondered explanation was that it was an "oversold" operation. Well, in the sense that any economic operation that doesn't make money is oversold, I suppose it was. But things can be basically sound and run badly in the back office, or be pretty marginal but turned into profit by good managers. They can even be fantastically popular with the consumers but still have their share price collapse (Facebook). They can fail to make money for a decade, and then turn regular profits (Google).

Lots of people start businesses that fail. This one may yet. Or it might yet turn a profit. But the cost to the consumer has been minimal either way.

This operation is quite different from most in the world. It is in about as perfect a spot for wind as possible. Because most NZ power is hydro, we don't have the same issues about needing back-up gas or coal. It is almost economic in that situation, despite no subsidies.

If the Green minded want to start operations without subsidies, they are welcome to in my book.

Aug 31, 2012 at 2:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterMooloo

I work in the electronc materials business. This whole solar industry bubble has been funny to watch - every large supplier over investing like hell for the past 10 years, blind to the underlying problem that if you take away the subsidy, not too many people will buy the panels. The collapse in this business is only just beginning - their revenues are down nearly 50% compared to last year, and it's only just beginning to unravel.

One of our wise old sales managers had a pithy phrase for the entire solar panel manufacturing business. "too many dogs, all chasing after one bone. And the bone hasn't got any marrow. And most of the dogs have mange."

Aug 31, 2012 at 2:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterSebastian Weetabix

New Zealand obtains more than half of its energy from Hydro generation and more than 66% from renewables in general. The last 12 months have been among the driest in New Zealand's history, and this has caused wholesale electricty prices to rocket up. If a wind farm can't make a profit under those circumstances then it never will.

Aug 31, 2012 at 5:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterJantar

Jack Hughes:

You're right that the aweo paper is worth reading. But it's six years old. So be careful about using your "key takeaway" (that Denmark hasn't closed a fossil fuel power station) unless you have a current reference.

Aug 31, 2012 at 7:23 AM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

I can't stop myself from doing a little crowing on this issue, having made the money call on this a coule of years ago:

http://geckkosworld.blogspot.ie/2010/05/get-rich-quick-green-way.html
http://geckkosworld.blogspot.ie/2010/05/just-how-is-that-climate-change.html
http://geckkosworld.blogspot.ie/2010/06/lets-check-on-our-green-investments.html

And the final adjudication is almost certainly in:

http://www.morningstar.co.uk/uk/funds/snapshot/snapshot.aspx?id=F000000OC5&tab=1

Aug 31, 2012 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

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